By Denis Campbell
“Cold enough for you?” “Yes, quite. Now go ____ yourself,” would be an appropriate local reply. Mostly though I behave like the gang of diabolical penguins in the animated film Madagascar, “just smile and wave boys, smile and wave.”
Today, sitting in an Amsterdam airport hotel room (thanks to the good folks at Hilton who extended my checkout time gratis), I’m sweating the snowy weather front closing in on The Netherlands and UK. I was already placed in a foul mood being forced to fly to and from Bristol Airport, a 90-minute (minimum) drive from home and it should be a real ‘joy’ tonight in blowing drifting snow.
Watching the online departure and arrival boards at Bristol and Schiphol all day to get a sense of my travel chances is not fun under any circumstance and it could be worse. I could be sitting in the huddled mass of unhappy humanity in the terminal building rather than contemplating a room service lunch (already can hear the ex- kvetching)…
I should be able to fly into the 22-minute door-to-door drive Cardiff Airport. But because local airport management and government authorities are so incompetent, bury their heads in the sand and choose to sit on their collective hands, we business travellers face insane airfares on KLM because they have no competition and can charge whatever they want.
Instead we endure flowery e-mail messages from airport management telling us how great Cardiff Airport is, inane surveys suggesting WE write to airlines and get them (during an air carrier depression) to locate in Cardiff and a multi-million pound terminal expansion for an airport with a plethora of booze cruise charter operators, two regular carriers to Scotland and Dublin (but no service to London), unpredictable (guess the flight destinations this quarter) BMI Baby (which is also always perennially on life support) and one legitimate international carrier.
KLM is making a killing on the backs of Cardiff business travellers. They cut their 11:00 am departure and now have only 3 flights per day to/from Amsterdam. This little move forces anyone with an international flight connection onto the 6:00 am daily flight as the only viable option. That leg alone was £205 pounds Saturday making a 1-day trip £441. The same flight from Bristol on Easy Jet, even last-minute, cost £128.
So congrats Cardiff, all the landing fees and concessions now drive 90-minutes to Bristol. So 10 of us disgusted Cardiff business travellers were shivering at 5:00 am Saturday in the long-term car-park lot waiting for the bus. Uniform opinion? Cardiff is a bad joke (and their comments were neither printable nor limited to the airport).
Today though, we suffer through a new crisis. The UK is facing a grit (road salt) shortage. One can only hope weather pattern changes and winter ends on 15 January v 21 March. Otherwise get ready to slip and slide. Having lived near Washington DC and travelled to Atlanta and other southern US cities in the past, I am almost as tired of locales unaccustomed to cold weather as I am climate change deniers claiming because it is cold (in winter) there is no global warming. They ignore the real cause, unseasonably warm artic circle air (from escaping permafrost methane) has created unseasonably cold weather here (see the film ‘Day After Tomorrow’ for reference).
And, I’m just getting started.
I’m painfully familiar with the Jeff Foxworthy joke: “if the directions to your house include the words, ‘turn off the paved roadway…’ you might be a redneck. Yet 250 yards ‘off the paved roadway’ sits our ‘Welsh redneck’ farmhouse. The so-called main road that runs up and down a roughly 7% graded hill at the end of a sloping upwards dirt and gravel drive has not seen a salt truck (gritter) since the 1st snowfall around Christmas.
Navigate that? Then one is pleasantly surprised at the bottom of the hill. There lays a bare pavement bus route. As we have painfully learned this storm season, the bus routes are the first to be treated, over and over and over again. So 10-days into the month of January UK authorities are resorting to table and rock salt to keep roadways open, grocery store bread and milk aisles resemble the 1980s Soviet Union and the big storm winners? Online dating sites and contraceptive sellers (no report as yet on Q1 Viagra sales but they should be very strong).
My only solace? Those smug, arrogant Florida ‘snowbird’ were not spared and residents have to buy space heaters for the 1st time this century.
Come on clock!